Egypt is probably the world's oldest civilization having emerged from the Nile Valley around 3,100 years ago, historically. Egypt is probably one of the oldest vacation spots. Early Greeks, Romans and others went there just for fun, and to see the wonders of some of mankind's earliest triumphs, but Egypt is much more than Pyramids and monuments. It is also Red Sea scuba diving, hot night spots, luxury hotels and five star restaurants. It is romantic cruises down the Nile on festive river boats, a night at the grand opera and it is a cultural experience like none you have ever experienced. Egypt is a land bustling with life, sound, visual beauty and excitement. More than anything else, we want you to think of Egypt as fun. For thousands of years, it has been the playground of emperors and kings, and we hope you will take the time to find out what is the reason behind.
Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes
The poulation of Egypt is about 80 millions, 75 % is Muslim Sunni and 25 % is Christians and others
Labor force is 22.4 million (2004) . Unemployment rate.16.4% (2004). Inflation Rate s 5.9% (2004). Gross domestic product (total value of goods and services produced annually) is $267.1 billion (2004 est.). Budget is $19.8 billion. Debt is $30.5 billion (2004). Exporting is $5.1 billion, primarily crude oil and petroleum products, cotton yarn, raw cotton, textiles, metal products, chemicals. Importing is $15.5 billion, primarily machinery and equipment, foods, fertilizers, wood products, durable consumer goods, capital goods. Defense spending is 8.2% of GDP (2004 est.). Highways are 73,000 km (2004)
Visa & Passport:
Non-Egyptian visitors arriving in Egypt are required to be in possession of a valid passport. Entry visas may be obtained from Egyptian Diplomatic and Consular Missions Abroad or from the Entry Visa Department at the Travel Documents, Immigration and Nationality Administration (TDINA). It is, however, possible for most tourists and visitors to obtain an entry visa at any of the Major Ports of Entry. Please check with your nearest Egyptian Consular mission for more details concerning visa regulations applying to your citizenship. The visa form must then be completed, either by printing it out and filing it in or via a graphics editor and sent to the nearest Egyptian Embassy or Consulate. Visitors entering Egypt at the overland border post to Taba to visit Gulf of Aqaba coast and St. Catherine can be exempted from visa and granted a free residence permit for fourteen days to visit the area. Citizens of the following countries are required to be in possession of a pre-arrival visa: Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Chechnya, Croatia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kirghizia, Lebanon, Macau, Macedonia, Moldavia, Montenegro, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, The Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri-Lanka, Tadzhikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and all African countries. Residents of the above countries may apply for a visa through their nearest Egyptian Consulate or Embassy. Click here to find the Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Those in possession of a residence permit in Egypt are not required to obtain an entry visa if they leave the country and return to it within the validity of their residence permit or within six months, whichever period is less. There are three types of Egyptian visa: Tourist Visa: is usually valid for a period not exceeding three months and granted on either single or multiple entry basis. Entry Visa: is required for any foreigner arriving in Egypt for purposes other than tourism, e.g. work, study, etc. The possession of a valid Entry Visa is needed to complete the residence procedure in Egypt.
Egypt is a Middle Eastern country and has Middle Eastern customs. Whether Muslim or Copt, the Egyptians are deeply religious and religious principles govern their daily lives. Combined with religious belief is commitment to the extended family. Each family member is responsible for the integrity of the family and for the behavior of other members, creating an environment that would be envied by many people in the West. Certainly, the result is that the city of Cairo is safer than any western metropolis. Yet when westerners visit Egypt they are often apprehensive. Their views of Egyptians and Arabs, fomented by unkind and untrue media stories, often bear no relation to reality. Travelers are often surprised by their friendly, hospitable reception and take home with them good feelings about Egypt and its population. Egyptians have been raised in a social environment steeped in Islam, a background that can color their decision-making in a way difficult for foreigners to understand. Yet it is precisely this training that makes Egyptians some of the most charming and helpful of hosts. By understanding the culture and with consideration for your hosts, you can be a welcome guest in Egypt.
Devout Muslims do not drink alcohol though most do not object to others imbibing in reasonable amounts. If in doubt, ask. In addition to the prohibition on alcohol, the faithful do not use drugs or eat pork, which is considered unclean. Explicit sexual material--magazines, photos, tapes, or records--is illegal and subject to confiscation. Keep in mind that proselytizing is illegal in Egypt. Foreigners actively working to convert Egyptians have been asked to leave. Remember, almost all the Egyptians are either conservative devoted Moslems or Coptic's.
In Egypt there are hardly any restrictions on foreign women. Ticket lines, for example, are occasionally segregated. Women should line up with other women (especially since the lines are usually shorter). On buses, the driver may want you to be seated in the front with other women. On the metro lines, the first car is usually reserved for women. For men, speaking to an unknown Egyptian woman is a breach of etiquette. Take care in any liaisons you form because some families still follow ancient traditions.
In general, Egyptians are most accommodating and they will go out of their way to help you and respond to any questions you have. Most Egyptians require little personal space and will stand within inches of you to talk. You will find that whenever you start talking with an Egyptian, you will inevitably draw a crowd, and often the Egyptians will start discussing among themselves over the correct answer to a question.
Egyptians, if offered anything, will refuse the first invitation which is customary. Therefore (unless you're dealing with Egyptians used to Western frankness) you should do the same. If the offer is from the heart and not just politeness, it will be repeated. If you're invited into a home, especially in small villages, and have to refuse, the householder will often press for a promise from you to visit in the future, usually for a meal. If you make such a promise, keep it, for having foreign guests is often considered a social coup. If you fail to arrive, your would-be host will be humiliated. To repay invitations, you may host a dinner in a restaurant, a common practice.
Please do not offer tips to professionals, businessmen, or others who would consider themselves your equals. You may seriously offend them by your act. Women Before the famous Egyptian feminist Hoda Shaarawi deliberately removed hers in 1922, the veil was worn in public by all respectable middle-class and upper-class women, Muslim, Jew, or Christian. By 1935, however, veils were a comparative rarity in Egypt, though they continued to be worn as an item of fashion in neighboring countries like Syria and Jordan for 30 more years and have remained obligatory in the Arabian Peninsula to this day. Nowadays in Egypt, some women still wear the veil demonstrating either modesty or Muslim piety. One reason this is favored by many young professional women, is that it tends to discourage male advances, physical or verbal. From the 1930s onwards, Egyptian women began to enter into business and the professions. Thus by 1965, thanks in part to social changes affected in the course of the July Revolution, Egypt could boast a far higher proportion of women working as doctors, dentists, lawyers, professors, diplomats, or high officials than might have been found in the US or in any European country outside of Scandinavia.
Woman Traveling Alone:
In Egypt, a woman traveling alone is generally safe, but she will be noticed, less in large cities than in the country. However, if problems do occur, seek help from the police or any shop nearby. Although you probably will never be accosted, take simple precautions as you would anywhere: don't walk in deserted areas alone. Although most invitations are innocent, don't accept them from strangers.
Major tourism mosques are open to the public unless services are in progress (the main service is on Friday at noon). Other mosques are not. Keep in mind that a mosque differs from a western church in that Christian churches are considered houses of God, while mosques are more a gathering place for the faithful of Islam. Unless otherwise posted, tickets to some that have been restored are sold by the caretaker for about LE3-6. All visitors to mosques, mausoleums, and madrasas must remove their shoes. Most Muslims walk around in their stockings but those mosques that are major tourist attractions have canvas overshoes available; a tip of 50PT to LE1 is in order for the people who put them on for you. Women must cover bare arms and should also have a hat.
Crime & Drugs:
Crime in Egypt is nearly nonexistent, and violence is usually limited to family feuds. However, in tourism areas some pickpockets and petty thieves may exists, so be careful and remember that the ever helpful tourism police are usually nearby. Women must be cautious, especially in out-lying areas. Stay completely away from drugs and leave yours at home.
Calendars & Public Holidays:
The business and secular community in Egypt operates under the Western (Gregorian) calendar (BC/AD). But other calendars have official status in Egypt. The Islamic calendar (AH), used to fix religious observances, is based on a lunar cycle of 12 months of 9 or 30 days. The Muslim year is thus 11 days shorter than the year according to the Gregorian calendar and months move forward accordingly. In the Gregorian calendar, for example, April is always in the spring, but in the Muslim calendar all months move through all seasons in a 33-year cycle. The Coptic calendar (AM) is based on a solar cycle and consists of 12 months of 30 days and one month of 5 days. Every four years a sixth day is added to the shorter month. An adaptation of the Coptic calendar is used by many farmers for planting and harvesting crops. It is used by the authorities of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The following are months for the Muslim and Coptic calendars
Public Holidays: January 7th is the Coptic Christmas, February 22nd is the Union Day, April 25th is Sinai Liberation Day, May 1st is Labor Day, June 18th is The Evacuation Day, July 1st is the Bank Holiday, July 23rd is the Revolution Day, September 11th is the Coptic New Year, October 6th is The Armed Forces Day
Official Cultural Events:
Cairo has been the entertainment capitol of the Arab World for more than a century. You can tell if you were there during New Year's Night. The entire city looks like one big party. Cars and people walking in the streets until the next day. Either poor or rich, everybody is cheerful and trying to have fun on the last night of the year. Thousands of Arabs, from North Africa and the Middle East, fly to Cairo for that special night. Beginning the year is the International Book Fair sponsored by the General Egyptian Book Organization at the Madinat Nasr Exhibition Grounds in Cairo. It is a three-week affair with displays by foreign and local publishers. Also in January is the International Documentary and Short Film Festival sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. February has two interesting observances. The first is a gift from the ancient Egyptians. In Abu Simbel the ascension of Ramsses II to the throne of ancient Egypt is celebrated on February 22. Ramsses ordered the temple built in such a way that on this day the sun penetrated into the inner sanctuary of the temple lighting his statue within. The second event is the International Fishing Tournament held at Hurghada on the Red Sea. Sponsored by several associations and the Ministry of Tourism, this event welcomes fishermen from around the world. March heralds the spring and the Annual Flower Show at the Orman Gardens, Sharia Giza, in Giza. It is accompanied by the International Children's Film Festival, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. The hot summer has little to offer in the way of festivals, but September and October are busy months. A new festival is the Alexandrians of the World Festival: the cities bearing that name (there are over 40 in the world) join in the four-day celebration held in Alexandria, Egypt. The second yearly celebration at Abu Simbel, this time commemorating the birth of Ramsses II, occurs in October. Every year in October the Alexandria Mediterranean Biennale offers a wonderful venue for artists. Toward the end of the month is the annual commemoration of the Battle of Al Alamein, with services conducted by both former Allied and former Axis countries. In Ismailia, the International Folk Festival is attended by participants from all over the world. And then there is the Pharaoh's Rally, an 11-day, 2,900 mile (4,700 km) daredevil motor vehicle race through the deserts of Egypt. November hosts the Egyptian Arabian Horse show, with fine Arabian horses on display, and the International Children's Book Fair at the Madinat Nasr Exhibition Grounds, while December is high-lighted by the International Film Festival. Details of these events are usually advertised in local English language publications including Cairo Today, Places in Egypt, and Cairo's, all available at bookstores throughout the country.
Egyptian summers are hot and dry in most of the country and humid in the Delta and along the Mediterranean Coast. In recent years the humidity has spread to Cairo and the city swelters in August. Winters are mild with some rain, but usually there are bright, sunny days and cold nights. There is a short spring and autumn and during the 50 days (khamseen) between the end of March and mid-May, dust storms can occur sporadically.
Foods & Drinks:
In Egypt, dining out can range from stand-up sandwich bars to luxurious five-course meals. You can find small, inexpensive establishments that serve good Egyptian food for only a few pounds. If you're in a hurry, try the local snack bars. While the cubbyholes off the street (which probably have running water) are generally safe. The larger cities even have Western-style fast-food chains like McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, but they're relatively expensive. In cities both food and water are safe although the change in your diet may produce short-term gastrointestinal upsets.
Although Egyptian eating habits may seem erratic, most natives begin the day with a light breakfast of beans (or bean cakes), eggs, and/or pickles, cheeses, and jams. Most families eat their large, starchy lunch around 1400-1700 and follow it with a siesta. They may take a British-style tea at 17:00 or 18:00 and eat a light supper (often leftovers from lunch) late in the evening. Dinner parties, however, are scheduled late, often no earlier than 2100, with the meal served an hour or two later. In restaurants lunch is normally 13:00-16:00, dinner 20:00-24:00.
In Egypt, as in the rest of the world, restaurants are only as good as the cooks they employ, and cooks seem to be continually changing. For current information on the best restaurants, the expatriate community is unbeatable, and the magazine Cairo Today includes monthly tips listing places to try, and publishes an annual dining guide. Most establishments use native ingredients and will offer fruits and vegetables in season. Menus are in both Arabic and English except in Alexandria, where they are in Arabic and French. In large restaurants, the maitre d'hotel will speak English, French, and possible German, Italian, or Greek. These establishments serve a mixture of international cuisine but often include Egyptian or Middle Eastern fare as well. Most hotels also maintain 24-hour coffee shops. Many of the smaller, Egyptian-style restaurants specialize in basic meat and fava-bean dishes. They are simple and inexpensive. Waiters speak little English, so use your phrase book
Throughout Egypt, little stand-up shops dispense the Egyptian version of the fast food. Most of these shops in major cities are clean and offer quick, inexpensive, and nutritious meals. Most shops have helpful staff, but during their busy times you may have to push your way into the pack of Egyptians to get waited on. You can buy roasted chickens that the shop will season for you. You can also get shawirma (Gyros), lamb cooked on a vertical split, available most of the day.
Egyptian Home Cooking:
If you're lucky, you may be invited to dine in an Egyptian home. There are no set times for dinner; often hours will depend upon your host's profession. Although invitations may be issued for as late as 0100, generally if no time is set, guests are expected between 2100-2200 hours. If you wish, you may bring flowers, chocolates, or a bottle of wine (if you hosts drink--many Muslims do not). You will be introduced to other guests and perhaps the host's entire family, many of whom will not stay to eat. Dining customs vary throughout the country, so try to follow examples set by your host and any fellow guests. Depending upon the family's own customs and the size of the party, men and women may split up for cocktails (nonalcoholic drinks in strict Muslim homes) and then rejoin at the dinner table, where seating is usually random. All the food is set in the middle of the table at the beginning of the meal. If no silverware is provided, use your bread as a combination fork and spoon. Guests are not expected to clear their plates, and you'll need to refuse more than once to convince your host that you really can't eat anymore. Complimenting the hostess on her cooking skills as well as (for women) asking her for recipes are in good taste and appreciated. After dinner, guests remove from the dining room to drink mint tea or coffee. Wait at least a half-hour from the end of the meal before you take you leave; compliment the cook again, and extend your thanks (alf shokren).
Egyptian food reflects the country's melting-pot history; native cooks using local ingredients have modified Greek, Turkish, Lebanese, Palestinian, and Syrian traditions to suit Egyptian budgets, customs, and tastes. The dishes are simple; made with naturally ripened fruits and vegetables and seasoned with fresh spices, they're good and hearty. Food in the south, closely linked to North African cuisine, is more zesty than that found in the north, but neither is especially hot. The best cooking is often found in the smaller towns. Although Egyptian cooking can be bland and oily when poorly done, most of the cuisine is delicious. Enjoy!
The mainstay of Egyptian diets, aysh (bread) comes in several forms. The most common is a pita type made either with refined white flour called aysh shami, or with coarse, whole wheat, aysh baladi. Stuffed with any of several fillings, it becomes the Egyptian sandwich. Aysh shams is bread made from leavened dough allowed to rise in the sun, while plain aysh comes in long, skinny, French-style loaves. If you find yourself faced with hard, dry aysh, do like the Egyptians: soften it in water, and if you have a fire available, warm it over the open flame.
Along with aysh, the native bean supplies most of Egypt's people with their daily rations. Ful can be cooked several ways: in ful midamess, the whole beans are boiled, with vegetables if desired, and then mashed with onions, tomatoes, and spices. This mixture is often served with an egg for breakfast, without the egg for other meals . A similar sauce, cooked down into a paste and stuffed into aysh baladi, is the filling for the sandwiches sold on the street. Alternatively, ful beans are soaked, minced, mixed with spices, formed into patties (called ta'miyya in Cairo and falaafil in Alexandria), and deep-fried. These patties, garnished with tomatoes, lettuce, and tihina sauce, are stuffed into aysh and sold on the street.
A leafy, green, summer vegetable, molokhiyya is distinctively Egyptian, and locals will proudly serve you their traditional thick soup made from it. The chopped leaves are generally stewed in chicken stock, and served with or without pieces of chicken, rabbit, or lamb. This soup can also be served with crushed bread or over rice. If you're served it straight, it's polite to dunk your aysh. Mezze These small dishes of various forms are usually served with drinks. Those resembling dips are made with tihina, an oil paste of sesame seeds. Tihina mixed with oil and seasoned with garlic or chili and lemon can be served alone, but when combined with mashed eggplant and served as a dip or sauce for salads, its called baba- ghanoug. In Alexandria, chickpeas are added to the tihina to make hummus bi tihina. Tihina also forms the base for many general-purpose sauces served with fish and meats and replaces mayonnaise on Egyptian sandwiches. Turshi includes a variety of vegetables soaked in spicy brine--it's always good with beer.
Soup & Salad:
In addition to molokhiyya, the Egyptians make a variety of meat (lahhma), vegetable (khudaar), and fish (samak) soups known collectively as shurbah, and all are delicious. Salads (salata) can be made of greens, tomatoes, potatoes, or eggs, as well as with beans and yogurt. Western-type salad bars have come into vogue in larger cities, and here, for a few pounds, you can make a whole meal of the fresh produce. Yogurt (laban zabadi) is fresh and unflavored; you can sweeten if you wish with honey, jams, preserves, or mint. It rests easy on an upset stomach. Main Courses Rice and bread form the bulk of Egyptian main courses, which may be served either as lunch or dinner. For most Egyptians, meat is a luxury used in small amounts, cooked with vegetables, and served with or over rice, but meat dishes comprise most restaurant fare. Torly, a mixed- vegetable casserole or stew, is usually made with lamb, or occasionally with beef, onions, potatoes, beans, and peas. To make Egyptian-style kebab, cooks season chunks of lamb in onion, marjoram, and lemon juice and then roast them on a spit over an open fire. Kufta is ground lamb flavored with spices and onions which is rolled into long narrow "meatballs" and roasted like kebab, with which it's often served. Pork is considered unclean by Muslims, but is readily available, as is beef. Although native chickens (firaakh) are often scrawny and tough, imported fowl are plump, tender, and tasty. You can order grilled chicken (firaakh mashwi) in a restaurant or buy one already cooked at the street-side rotisseries and fix your own meal. Hamaam (pigeons) are raised throughout Egypt, and when stuffed with seasoned rice and grilled, constitute a national delicacy. They are small, so you will need to order several; the best are usually served in small, local restaurants where you may even have to give the cook a day's notice (a good sign), but beware--hamaam are occasionally served with their heads buried in the stuffing. Egyptians serve both freshwater and seagoing fish under the general term of samak. The best fish seem to be near the coasts (ocean variety) or in Aswan, where they are caught from Lake Nasser. As well as the common bass and sole, try gambari (shrimp), calamari (squid), gandofli (scallops), and ti'baan (eel). The latter, a white meat with a delicate salmon flavoring, can be bought on the street already deep-fried.
Ruzz (rice) is often varied by cooking it with nuts, onions, vegetables, or small amounts of meat. Bataatis (potatoes) are usually fried but can also be boiled or stuffed. Egyptians stuff green vegetables with mixtures of rice; wara' enab, for example, is made form boiled grape leaves filled with small amounts of spiced rice with or without ground meat. Westerners often know them by the Greek name of dolmadas or dolmas, but beware ordering them by that name; in Egypt, doma refers to a mixture of stuffed vegetables.
Native cheese (Gibna) comes in two varieties: gibna beida, similar to feta, and gibna rumy, a sharp, hard, pale yellow cheese. These are the ones normally used in salads and sandwiches, but gouda, cheddar, bleu, and other Western types are becoming available. Mish is a spiced, dry cheese made into a paste and served as an hors d'oeuvre.
In Egypt a multitude of fresh fruits are available year-round, but since all are tree- or vine-ripened, only those in season appear in suqs (markets) or on vendors' stands. In the winter, mohz (bananas), balah (dates), and burtu'aan (any of several varieties of oranges) appear. Special treats are burtu'aan bedammoh (pink oranges), whose skin looks like most oranges, but their pulp is red and sweet. The Egyptian summer is blessed with battiikh (melon), khukh (peach), berkuk (plum), and 'anub (grapes). Tin shawki is a cactus fruit that appears in August or September.
Goz (nuts) and mohamas (dried seeds) are popular snack foods in Egypt, and vendors can be found selling them nearly anywhere. All are tasty; try bundok (hazelnuts), loz (almonds), or fuzdo (pistachios). If you like peanuts, the ful sudani are especially tasty in Aswan. Desserts Egyptian desserts of pastry or puddings are usually drenched in honey syrup. Baklava (filo dough, honey, and nuts) is one of the less sweet; fatir are pancakes stuffed with everything from eggs to apricots; and basbousa, quite sweet, is made of semolina pastry soaked in honey and topped with hazelnuts. Umm ali, a delight named for Mamluk queen, is raisin cake soaked in milk and served hot. Kanafa is a dish of batter "strings" fried on a hot grill and stuffed with nuts, meats, or sweets. Egyptian rice pudding is called mahallabiyya and is served topped with pistachios. French-style pastries are called gatoux. Good chocolate candies are likewise difficult to find, though Western-style candy bars are beginning to make their appearance. The Egyptian ice cream runs closer to ice milk or sherbet than cream. Most restaurants and many homes serve fresh fruits for desserts, and it makes a perfect, light conclusion to most meals.
Shopping of Foods:
The easiest way to stretch your food budget is to patronize the local stands and suqs, buying fresh fruit and vegetables you can eat raw. The prices are normally posted in Arabic and are fixed. Since there is no bargaining involved, you can just point to what you want, indicate how many or how much, and hold out your money; most vendors and small storekeepers are scrupulously honest. Small, local grocery stores occupy nearly every street corner and sell canned goods, preserves, bread, cheese, and soda pop as well as staples at government fixed prices. If the local grocery doesn't stock beer, there is probably a store nearby that does; ask. Here or at the brewery you can buy Stella by the case. Bakeries supply various types of bread and pastries at fixed prices
Coffee Developed and popularized in the Middle East, the drinking of ahwa (coffee) remains a national tradition, and local coffeehouses still cater to men who come to drink coffee, discuss politics, play tawla (backgammon), listen to "Oriental" (Egyptian) music, and smoke the shiisha (water pipe). Although the traditional poetry and high-powered politics have migrated to fancy homes and offices, the coffee remains. You will also be offered the thick, strong, but tasty brew in homes, offices, and bazaar shops. Turkish coffee is made from finely powdered beans brewed in a small pot. As the water just begins to boil, the grounds float to the surface in a dark foam; the ahwa is brought to you still in the pot and poured into a demitasse. The heavier grounds sink to the bottom of the cup and the lighter ones form a foam on the top, the mark of a perfectly brewed cup. Sip carefully to avoid the grounds in the bottom of the cup. (If you don't like the foam, you can blow it aside under the guise of cooling your drink.) Although Turkish coffee has a reputation for being tart, its actual flavor depends on the mix of beans used in the grind; the larger the percentage of Arabica, the sweeter and more chocolate flavor. Ahwa comes in several versions: ahwa sada is black, ahwa ariha is lightly sweetened with sugar, ahwa mazboot is moderately sweetened, and ahwaziyada is very sweet. You must specify the amount of sugar at the time you order, for it's sweetened in the pot. Most people order mazboot, which cuts the tartness; ahwa is never served with cream. Most hotel and restaurant breakfasts include strong French coffee usually called Nescafe; you may have to specially order it with sugar (bil sukkar) or milk (bil laban).
Tea & Other Hot Drinks:
Egyptians adopted the custom of formal afternoon tea from the native Arabians, and it's served with milk, lemon, and sugar on the side. The domestic or Bedouin version of shay is boiled rather than steeped and is often saturated with sugar; this strong tea is served in glasses. A refreshing change from after-dinner coffee is shay bil na'na' or mint tea.; dried mint is mixed with tea leaves and the mixture is brewed like regular tea . Kakoow bil laban (hot chocolate) is available during the winter, as is Sahlab, a thick liquid that tastes like a cross between Ovaltine and oatmeal. Karkaday, a clear, bright red, native drink especially popular in the south, is made by steeping dried hibiscus flowers, sweetened to taste, and served either hot or cold; the locals claim this delicious drink calms the nerves.
Bottled water (mayya ma'daniyya) is available in all areas frequented by tourists; both large and small bottles are sold on the street and from ice buckets at most of the antiquities sites. Be sure the cap is sealed. Mayya shurb or mayya ahday (drinking water) is safe in most metropolitan areas. A delectable treat in Egypt are the fresh fruit juices (asiir) available at small stalls throughout Egypt. The shopkeepers blend the whole fruit and small amounts of ice and sugar water and then strain this mash into your glass--the resulting drinks have been described as ambrosia. Juices, which are made from fruits in season, include farawla (strawberry), manga (mango), mohz (banana),and burtu'aan (orange) and are especially welcome in hot weather. In addition to pure fruit juices, you can also get them made of vegetables such as khiyar (cucumber), tamaatim (tomato), and gazar (carrot). For a new experience, experiment with some of their combination drinks: nuss wa nuss (carrot and orange), an unexpectedly delightful concoction, or mohz bi-laban, a blend of bananas and milk; an Egyptian milkshake. Asiir lamoon, common throughout Egypt, is a strong, sweet version of lemonade. In the past few years canned and packaged juices have become common, but their flavor cannot compare with the freshly made varieties. Western soft drinks are ubiquitous in Egypt, but most are domestically bottled. You can find Schweppes, Fanta, Seven-Up, Coke, and Pepsi; club soda is also available, but Collins mix is nearly nonexistent. If you buy from street-side vendors, you're expected to drink the soda right there and return the bottle; if you want to take a bottle with you, you'll have to pay for it.
Although devout Muslims refrain from drinking alcohol, beer, wine, and hard liquor are available in bars, restaurants, and some grocery shops. Imported beer and wine are the most expensive, but the local beer called Stella is a light lager that is quite good, provided it has not sat in the sun too long. It comes in large (about 20 oz.) bottles and runs about LE4-5. Stella Export, available in bars and restaurants, is more expensive (LE4), comes in smaller bottles, and is stronger--closer in alcohol content to most Western beers. Marzen, a dark, bock beer, appears briefly during the spring; Aswanli is the dark beer made in Aswan. Brandy is drinkable only when diluted, and the local rum is not much better. However, zibib, the Egyptian version of Greek ouzo or Mexican anasato, is good either on the rocks or diluted with water (which turns it milky) as a before-dinner cocktail. Other hard liquors are imported and therefore are limited (the ports at Suez and Alexandria seem to have the widest variety) and expensive. If you drink regularly, plan on stocking up at a duty-free store before you enter Egypt.
What to Wear:
Egypt is a conservative country and visitors should respect this attitude. No topless or nude bathing is permitted. On the practical side, leave your synthetics at home as they will prove to be too hot in summer and not warm enough in winter - bring materials that breathe. It is advisable to wear cotton in summer as the heat can be like a furnace. In winter wear layers that can be taken off during the heat of the day and put back on for cool evenings. Wear loose and flowing garments, which are not only modest, but practical in a hot climate. Have you ever wondered why the Bedouin wear layers of flowing robes? Why they cover their heads and the back of their necks? Centuries of living in desert climates have taught them that loose garments keep one cooler and layered garments allow wind to enter and circulate, creating a natural ventilation system. Protecting the head and neck from loss of moisture prevents heat stroke. Bring comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking and temple floors are far from even. In summer, wear a hat to protect yourself from the heat of the Egyptian sun.
What to Bring:
Above all travel light. Get wheels for your luggage and leave heavy items at home. If you don't bring a camera you will be sorry. Sunglasses are a must as the sun is very strong in Egypt. The full information can be found here: